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July 4, 2012
Oriental’s Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to abandon Avenue A. But in a separate 3-2 vote a few minutes earlier, the Board voted to have an independent appraisal done of the properties that were proposed to be part of the land swap with Chris Fulcher. Those properties included South Avenue’s end and Avenue A.Warren Johnson, center, was the only commissioner not to vote to abandon Avenue A. He is flanked here by Sherrill Styron and Michelle Bessette. Also voting for it were Larry Summers and Barbara Venturi. With that 4-1 vote, the Board in effect gave up the Avenue A right-of-way to Chris Fulcher. Based on the price Fulcher paid for adjacent property in January, the value of Avenue A’s 6,000 square feet of right of way is roughly a quarter million dollars.
At its public hearing, the Board heard from 20 residents. Half of those who spoke were in favor of the swap, calling it good for the Town. Half were opposed to the swap, some because it would be the Town’s first ever abandonment of a right of way to water. Some opposed the right-of-way abandonment that is key to the swap because the lot the town would get could later be sold off by another Town Board, leaving the public with no harbor access in that area.Sixty people turned out for the public hearing. Ten spoke in favor, and ten against the land swap.South Avenue: An Appraisal Sought
South Avenue’s 7,000 square foot right-of-way and 74 feet of waterfront terminus on the harbor were not given up Tuesday night, pending the appraisal – which some swap opponents have sought since February for all of what the Town would give up.
Commissioner Barbara Venturi suggested that a licensed appraiser determine “the increase in property value to the Fulcher family interests.. as a result of this swap.” There was language in the motion indicating the appraisal be due at next month’s Board meeting and that the public be notified. It was not stipulated how an appraiser would be chosen and by whom.Commissioner Larry Summers argued against learning what an appraiser thought the properties in the land swap were worth.
The vote to seek that appraisal was 3-2 with Barb Venturi, Michelle Bessette and Warren Johnson voting in favor. Sherrill Styron and Larry Summers voted against. Summers argued against learning what an appraiser thought the values were for any of the rights-of-way.Avenue A Given Up
After the vote to get an appraisal for the properties, the board on a 4-1 margin, voted to give up Avenue A, with Warren Johnson voting against it. That is now a done deal and gives Chris Fulcher a full sweep of property from Wall Street, along the Neuse, around the point and up the harbor to South Avenue. As the Town’s Attorney noted in advance of that vote, Avenue A would be given up for good, regardless of whether South Avenue is or is not given up and the land swap does or doesn’t proceed.
In his comments, Commissioner Sherrill Styron said “I sense a little bit of envy that Chris might be worth a few more hundred dollars if he gets this Avenue A.” He called Avenue A “a street we don’t even need,” and said he wanted to close it – and in effect give it to Fulcher – Tuesday night.“What have we just done?”
Warren Johnson countered that “it just did not make sense” to give it up now, pending the appraisals the Board could get by next month’s meeting. After all, Johnson said, Avenue A was “part of the overall transaction.”
Johnson said he was concerned about giving up Avenue A Tuesday night. “I can’t imagine this transaction not happening next month,” Johnson said. “But let’s say it dies and goes away. What have we just done?”Town Attorney Scott Davis and Town Manager Bob Maxbauer in front of the schematic depicting the land swap, which the Town Manager negotiated. In it the yellow lot – here shown as 5,000 square feet — would be swapped for 7,000 square feet of South Avenue and the 6000 square feet of Avenue A. The Board gave away Avenue A Tuesday night. That came after voting to get an appraisal on the properties involved in the land swap.
In an interview after the meeting, Town Attorney Scott Davis brushed aside such concerns that if the deal fell thru, Avenue A was already given up. He indicated that the appraisal on South Avenue would not change the outcome because the Town was so far down the road toward culminating the land swap with Fulcher.
Walking away from the meeting, one land swap opponent said that giving up Avenue A without an appraisal was like giving up the handle for a tomahawk. Without it, said Marshall Tyler, there’s no leverage.Stories About The Land Swap